Jan Haag recently retired from her role as chair of the journalism department at Sacramento City College where she taught journalism and creative writing and advised on student publications. She is the author of Companion Spirit, a collection of poems about her husband’s death at the age of 48, published by Amherst Writers & Artists Press. She leads writing groups in Sacramento where the topic of grief and loss often arises. Read more of her beautiful writing here.
Put on your shoes and walk in the world,
talking to me. I’m right here with you;
I’m always within reach. It’s a good time
to chat, so go ahead. You’ll know it’s me
when you know it’s me. But even when
you’re not sure, I’m listening.
Sure, I can help you find missing things,
but I’m not one of them. I have not
gone astray. Death is just a change
of address, remember? You wrote
that a long time ago, and you were right.
No, I can’t give you my new address—
it’s not a place—but when you stand
in the back yard, hose in hand,
watering the last yellow zinnia
that insists on popping up its sunny
head, even if it is October,
listen with your whole heart.
When you sit in the loft with others
and see what shows up as you type,
when you let the words appear,
take good notes. You’ve gotta
whole cheering section here.
I’m just the latest addition.
You did it better than you thought you did.
You’re doing it better than you think you are.
What it? Every it. You always have done.
Yes, it’s fall, the dying season,
not your favorite, though it was mine.
Now, as you walk, inhale the cool.
The heat has finally shifted hemispheres.
Scuff your feet like a little kid through
leaves on the path. Stop, crouch, admire
their fallen state. Soak up golden
gingkos and blushing maples.
Pick up acorns and their jaunty caps
that have separated in the falling.
Relish the crunch of brittle sycamores.
Every leaf is born, lives, dies.
Tuck them into your heart, where
the ebbing summer and I will carry you
through every winter, into every spring.
As one does.
This is no ending, my friend.
Trust me. It’s not.